“The best place to refine your swing is, of course, on the practice range. You will have an opportunity to make the same mistakes over and over again so that you no longer have to think about them and they become part of your game.” – Stephen Baker
By Ian Hardie
In the article Why going to the driving range can hurt your golf game I wrote about the many golfers around the world who regularly go to golf driving ranges to spend time hitting golf balls – thinking that they are ‘helping their golf games’.
Sadly, most of that time and effort doesn’t generally help them at all.
This is due to the fact that they usually go to the range without a purpose or plan of what they are going to do – so consequently, they end up beating ball after ball with their driver.
Never really gaining any improvement in their golf game after doing so.
To help explain this I’m going to use a little part of my book How to drive the golf ball as far as you possibly can which covers exactly why that lack of improvement is the result and what should actually happen when practicing with your driver.
“………………..The first thing that the golfer needed to do was actually warm-up properly before even hitting a drive which means taking one or two other shorter clubs with them to the range
Making a few practice swings and then expecting a good shot straight away I have already covered in this book, so I won’t say too much more about that………………….is exactly why I recommend that amount of driver shots for your pre-game warm-up which of course is on top of the other shots that you need to hit in your pre-game warm-up like iron shots, chips and putts
It’s the basic amount of drives that it takes for your muscles and body to start operating at their optimum……………….
……………………..What I want to talk about are the shots hit between ball 20 and the end of the bucket which as you would have gathered were steadily getting worse as the bucket wore on………………….
………………………..The whole concept of ‘driver practice’ is that it is effectively golf’s version of high intensity training
Throughout the rest of the game very little effort or strength is required or used to hit most shots, the driver however is the club we use with the most speed and force during a round which means it takes the biggest toll on our muscles and body physically which is why I will be using the term peak physical load to describe it…………………….
……………………we may only use the driver for say 10 shots a round maximum and each shot that we make with it takes less than 2 seconds
Apart from the initial 6 to 10 pre-game drives you will be hitting from now on – the rest of the drives you will hit during a game will normally have a reasonably even spacing over the 4 or 5 hour period it takes for your game
So if we look at the maximum physical toll driving takes on our body during an actual game it works out to be this;
10 pre-game drives plus 10 drives during the game at 2 seconds of peak physical load each over 5 hours or 300 minutes
Adds up to 40 seconds of peak physical load spread over 300 minutes which allows not only ample ‘rest time’ (I know it’s not complete rest but it is lower physical load) but also during the course of a round there will no doubt be some snack consumption to assist in recovery as well as water being drunk to keep hydration levels up
Contrast that to what tends to happen while a golfer is hammering 100 balls in a row on the driving range with their driver;
100 drives at 2 seconds of peak physical load each over 1 hour or 60 minutes
Adds up to 200 seconds of peak physical load spread over 60 minutes generally carried out without much ‘rest time’ between drives – certainly not near the end of the bucket and generally most golfers won’t have any snack consumption or drinking water while they are doing it either
Any clue now as to why it’s not a very effective way to practice?
Hitting 5 times the normal amount of peak physical load shots you would hit in an ordinary round of golf in only 20% of the normal time that you would normally do it in doesn’t sound like effective practice to me
In fact it sounds a lot like ‘over training’
Consider a marathon runner who is able to normally complete a marathon which is just over 26 miles long in 3 hours
If we apply the equivalent of what most golfers do when they go to the driving range to ‘practice driving’ to marathon training we end up with the runner;
Attempting to run 130 miles or five times as far in only 36 minutes or 20% of the time
If that was possible of course, how much of a physical toll would it take on the runner?
More than it does on a golfer who hammers 100 balls at a driving range certainly but when you turn it around the idea of practice is supposed to help the golfer isn’t it?
Not to mention the fact that every one of those bad drives that were hit during the session are all recorded and stored by the golfers subconscious mind – ready to be accessed at some point in the future as the basis for the shot you are about to hit on a course one day – that’s a scary thought isn’t it?
So how do you need to practice your driving?
…………………make sure you go through a good warm-up with starting with a few shots with a #9 iron then moving to a few shots with a #5 iron before you get anywhere near your driver
At that point do the same driver warm-up as you would before a game then with the remaining golf balls in the bucket space them out so that you are hitting no more than 10 drives
Hit iron shots in between, sit down and have a break
Do your full pre-shot routine for every shot and eat a snack or two and take on water just the same as you would while you are playing
Have an alignment aid……………………down for all shots you hit as well as having an exact target which I’ll talk more about soon
……………………after all there is no point in learning how to become good at the driving range and lousy on the golf course – is there?
……………………to practice your driving effectively you need to hit very few shots but the shots that you do hit need to be done at full intensity……………………
Next time you are standing on the 18th hole at your course about to hit your drive as far as you possibly can I’m pretty sure you’d like the memory that your subconscious draws upon to be one of a good drive
As opposed to some awful slice that you hammered while on a driving range one day without purpose or direction”
And if you are a regular range goer – take a few minutes here to consider how you can break the cycle of beating ball after ball
So that you can make the most of your time at the golf driving range!